Newport Beach Councilwoman ‘Uncomfortable’ with Diocese Access to City Bonds

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange is looking to finance improvements at “Our Lady Queen of Angels” Catholic School in Newport Beach through California municipal bonds.

This makes one member of Newport Beach’s city council uncomfortable.

Councilwoman Nancy Gardner is worried that allowing the Diocese in the municipal bond market would set a precedent for all religious organizations to make a bond claim.

The bonds would be available through the California Municipal Finance Authority, a Joint Powers Authority assembled to issue bonds to “improve the standards of living in California.”

The city has approved requests from entities like Hoag Memorial Hospital Presbyterian, but Gardner noted at a recent meeting that approving a hospital might not be as controversial.

“When I read this, it made me very uncomfortable as far as precedents,” Gardner said.

She’s also concerned that if the city, for any reason, would turn down a bond request from a “temple or a Baptist church” it would look discriminatory. “Once we start issuing bonds for one entity like this, are we going to be able to be very discretionary?” Gardner said.

Acting City Attorney Leonie Mulvihill dismissed Gardner’s concerns and said the city council has “full discretion,” under its taxing power, to choose bond recipients.

“The fact that you’re approving one project tonight, I don’t believe sets any precedent,” Mulvihill said.

“I see a difference between (the hospital) and the church,” Gardner said.

The council unanimously approved the Diocese’s request.